Several businesses are interested in tapping into the County of Grande Prairie’s wind potential to generate electricity, the county’s economic development officer said last week in his report to county council.
It could take one to three years before a windmill appears in the county’s landscape but, if it goes ahead, it would be a first for the county, possibly even for northwestern Alberta.
Walter Paszkowski presented county council with a map showing the key potential sites for opportunities to generate electricity with wind.
“We wanted to work on the basis of science, not just what people want,” he said.
“Indeed with the maps that we have, it looks like there is some potential for the development of wind energy in the county.”
According to that map, the best areas are northeast of Grande Prairie, south of Webster, around Fitzsimmons and in the Kleskun Hills Park area.
The important bird areas, stretching from the northwest boundary of Grande Prairie to Sexsmith to the north, Valhalla Centre to the northwest, outside Albright to the west and Wembley and Dimsdale to the south, cannot be considered for any form of wind energy.
The county does not plan on doing much marketing since companies are already interested in developing the wind potential, said Paszkowski.
“Obviously, the cost of that energy – once you invest in the windmills – is really a stable cost,” he said. “It produces green energy, it really doesn’t do any harm to the atmosphere, it doesn’t do any harm to anything environmentally, so that in itself is very positive.”
The Alberta Electric System Operator plans the electricity grid in the province and manages how much wind power would be available.
AESO introduced a 900-megawatt threshold in April 2006 as a temporary measure to ensure the reliability of Alberta’s electric system as additional wind power was added to the power grid. Energy Minister Mel Knight removed the cap in September 2007.
“Since the 900 megawatts has been removed, there has been exceptional interest in wind development but, of course, all of the proposed projects may not go ahead,” said Tammy Forbes, a public affairs officer with Energy Alberta. “I do believe that the significant amount of it is in southern Alberta, just because of the geography.”
She added about 10,000 MW of proposed wind energy is in the queue.
According to data from the ministry of energy’s website, 521 MW of wind power is on the grid, which accounts for about four per cent of Alberta’s generating capacity of 12,120 MW. Coal and gas are still the major source of this province’s electricity supply. By this time next year, AESO anticipates having about 600 MW of wind energy on the grid.
By Jeanne Gagnon
Peace Country Sun Writer
9 May 2008
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